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Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman To The Rescue?

So what's going on with the Senate climate bill? Kate Sheppard has the rundown of all the latest dips and dives. The two main developments are a) the Kerry-Boxer cap-and-trade bill is still, very slowly, tunneling its way through the various committees, but it's been bogged down by the fact that Republicans have boycotted the mark-up process in the EPW committee and are demanding further economic analyses of the bill; and b) John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Republican Lindsey Graham are now hashing out their own, parallel, proposal for a bipartisan climate bill. Here's Kate's read:

I don't think this announcement is as much of a big deal as other some have suggested. It has always been the case that Reid would have the ultimate authority to combine and tweak a final bill on climate and energy, and would do so with the goal of crafting something that can garner 60 votes. And in the weeks since Kerry and Graham coauthored their editorial calling for climate action, it has become clear that there is a separate track of negotiations going on outside of Boxer's committee—a track that is designed to help appease senators who want a greater role for nuclear, coal, and domestic oil.

What is important is both the public appearance by Graham and the emergence of Lieberman as the third wingman. In his remarks, Graham seemed to distance himself from Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee that have thus far boycotted markup of the Kerry-Boxer bill. "My hope is that participation is seen as positive," said Graham. "If you can't participate in solving the problem, then why are you up here?"

Indeed, take a look at Graham's remarks during the press conference he held up on Capitol Hill with Lieberman and Kerry today. He does sound awfully sincere about banging out some sort of climate bill, despite the heavy shelling he's taken from conservatives in South Carolina. "Our country doesn’t have a vision on carbon," he said. "We need one. And we need to lead the world rather than follow the world on carbon pollution. Our country doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to build a green economy and never will until we price carbon."

Of course, that doesn't mean it's all placid sailing from here on out. As I reported earlier this week, finding common ground between conservatives and liberals on nuclear power could be a devilish task, although there are signs that many nuclear skeptics are softening their stance. As for the Kerry-Boxer bill, there's still that nasty stalemate in the EPW committee, and Graham said today that he actually agreed that the committee should delay five weeks for further EPA analysis. (Essentially, Republicans like George Voinovich think the agency's being too optimistic about the impact of a carbon cap, and what the EPA to redo its work with different, gloomier assumptions.)

At this point, the odds of a bill passing still look reasonably decent, but it's looking less and less likely the Senate will make much headway before the Copenhagen talks in December—which is why U.N. officials are starting to lower expectations for that summit and talking about extending the climate-treaty negotiations through to next year.